We can thank Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank, for snapping the stock market out of its month-long lethargy. This week, the ECB launched a trillion dollar program of monetary stimulus that gave investors worldwide a shot in the arm.
The program amounts to an injection of 60 billion Euros/month into the EU economies through the purchase of private and public debt. The quantitative easing will continue until September 2016. However, ECB spokesmen hinted that if more time is needed the program could be extended indefinitely.
Clearly, the ECB is benefiting from lessons learned over here. Our Fed created uneeded volatility over several years by launching and then shutting down a series of QE stimulus programs based on the short-term health of the economy. Finally, ex-Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke announced that our QE three program would be an open-ended commitment until employment and economic growth were on a sustainable uptrend.
The amount of the ECB program was about double the quantitative easing most investors were expecting. It lifted world markets by over one percent or more, as it should, since we now have three of the world’s largest economics—China, Japan and Europe—actively stimulating economic growth.
Readers, however, must remember that it took years here in the U.S. before our central bank programs succeeded. Even today, our economy and employment rate is still not one I would call robust. True, the U.S. is doing better than most but it took four years to really turn the corner.
At the same time, our stock market, anticipating success, doubled over that time period despite the ups and downs of the economy. The same thing should happen to those economies that have only now embarked on stimulus programs.
Another reason for rising markets is the price of oil. It has at least stopped going down (for now). The death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia led traders to hope that his successor, half-brother Crown Prince Salman, would have a different view of where the price of oil should be. Saudi Arabia has refused to cut output despite the precipitous decline in oil this year. I would not hold my breath expecting the new ruler will cut production.
Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, one of the country’s most astute investors, warned that the price of oil might still not have found a bottom. And for those who expect a sharp rebound in the price soon, Alwaleed suspected the road back to $60-70/barrel will neither be easy nor quick. I agree with him.
As readers may know, we are now in earnings season once again and so far the banks have been disappointing. The level of legal costs and fines that sector has had to pay out based on wrong-doing during the financial crises, coupled with poor trading results have hurt their bottom line. I am expecting companies exposed to currency risk (a rising dollar or falling Euro) will also disappoint.
There may be a counter-balance to those disappointments by companies who benefit from lower energy prices and a rising dollar but earnings overall will be somewhat checkered.
Nonetheless, I am sticking with this market on the basis of more central bank stimulus means rising stock markets. What else do you need to know?